Even though we work to prevent cruelty to animals all year long, April is special at the ASPCA because it is officially Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month! Every year, we ask supporters to celebrate this month by helping us raise awareness about important issues facing animals—and we hope that you’ll join in! We’ve come up with some exciting ways you can get involved and make a difference all month long:
Start a Fundraising Campaign Create a personal ASPCA fundraising page for an important event in your life and share it with your friends and family. Whether you donate your birthday, honor the memory of a beloved pet or decide to run a 5k with Team ASPCA, the money you raise can make a big difference for animals in need nationwide.
Commemorate Dog Fighting Awareness Tuesday, April 8, marks our second annual National Dog Fighting Awareness Day. The ASPCA designated this day to advance the conversation about dog fighting and to encourage animal-lovers across the country to take action against this brutal form of cruelty. This year, you can add your voice to the cause by joining our Get Tough campaign.
Make Adoption Your First Option Bringing a four-legged friend into your family? Shelters have lovable dogs and cats of all shapes, sizes and ages who are looking for a good home, so please make adoption your first choice. Check out our nationwide database of dogs and cats who are looking for good homes.
Show Your Support Online During April, use Your Facebook page, Twitter account or blog to spread the word about Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month—and be sure to tag us at @ASPCA in your posts! If you don’t already, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Smitty is a four-year-old Pit Bull who was brought to the ASPCA on October 14. Found by a Good Samaritan in the Bronx, New York, Smitty was suffering from first- and second-degree burns that covered nearly half of his body. Despite the severity of his burns—and his apparent pain—Smitty had a wonderful disposition.
At the ASPCA Animal Hospital, Smitty was in the ICU for six weeks where doctors managed his pain and changed his bandages regularly. During the early stages of his treatment, Smitty’s wounds were still so painful and fresh that he had to be sedated during bandage changes. Despite it all, his happy attitude and sweet nature never wavered.
ASPCA veterinarians removed dead tissue and skin so new tissue could grow in, and after six weeks, Smitty no longer required bandaging. His fur is growing back in patches, but it’s likely that he will have scars for the rest of his life. Smitty knows how to sit and fetch, and is very playful and active. After a long, hard journey, he is now available for adoption—hoping for a forever home just in time for Christmas.
The ASPCA is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case of a deceased cat discovered inside a cooler with a rope tied around its neck on September 2 in Lee County, Florida.
The female gray-and-white tabby was found by a resident on the side of the road on Elva Avenue in Lehigh Acres, according to Lee County Domestic Animal Services, which is leading the investigation. The cat appears to have been strangled.
“This is a truly sickening case of animal cruelty, and the heartlessness demonstrated by those responsible is shocking,” said Stacy Wolf, senior vice president of the ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Group. “While our ultimate hope is that this type of heinous act never occurs, this is a message that cruelty to animals will not be tolerated in our society. We thank Lee County Domestic Animal Services for its commitment to finding justice for this animal.”
Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact Lee County Domestic Animal Services by calling 239-533-7387, ext. 2 or Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS. Lee County Domestic Animal Services accepts anonymous information.
Please be vigilant in your community and report suspected abuse. Visit our Fight Cruelty page to learn which agencies are responsible for investigating and enforcing anti-cruelty laws in your area.
The ASPCA and the New York City Police Department are reporting significant progress in the fight against animal cruelty since January 1, when the NYPD took the lead role in responding to all animal cruelty complaints in NYC and the ASPCA expanded its direct care support for its victims.
Through June 30, there were 70 arrests and nearly 200 animals rescued and treated by the ASPCA, an increase of nearly 160% and 180%, respectively, over the same period last year.
The record-breaking increases are a result of accelerated and widened police responses to alleged animal abuse complaints, as well as the ASPCA’s increased direct care support for animal cruelty victims, including medical treatment, behavior assessments and rehabilitation, and housing and placement.
“The clear success of this partnership underscores the incredible impact that can be achieved when law enforcement and animal welfare groups collaborate,” says Matthew Bershadker, President and Chief Executive Officer of the ASPCA.
“We are protecting some of New York City’s most vulnerable residents by enforcing laws against animal cruelty,” says Police Commissioner William J. Bratton. “The NYPD will continue this extremely worthwhile partnership with the ASCPA, and we look forward to our continued success.”
The ASPCA has increased our assistance to law enforcement officials in the form of forensics work, comprehensive legal services, field assistance, and ongoing training and educational materials for officers. All eight NYPD patrol boroughs, several detective boroughs, the Housing Bureau, the Transit Bureau, and the Legal Bureau—as well as a number of assistant district attorneys—have been trained by ASPCA staff with extensive NYPD or New York City prosecutorial experience.
Most of us find acts of animal abuse so shocking and horrific that the thought alone makes us wince. But most is not all, and judging by recent acts of deliberate, depraved cruelty in our own backyard, we’re disturbingly far from all.
In May, King, a one-year-old male cat, was lured over by a young Brooklyn man and then brutally kicked 20 feet into the air as he and his friends laughed. We know this because one of those friends recorded the moment in a video that was posted on Facebook on May 5, prompting a strong and justified public outcry. With help from the North Shore Animal League and other rescuers, King was soon located, and the New York Police Department brought him to the ASPCA Animal Hospital on May 6. He was immediately given medical and behavioral care and made a full recovery.
Another cat, Quattro, was much less fortunate. On May 7, in Paterson, N.J., Quattro was allegedly tortured by three children, all under 12. According to news reports, the kids threw bricks, stones and sticks at the cat. After older children rescued Quattro from the abuse, he was cared for at Chance at Life Cat Rescue, a local animal rescue group. Suffering from broken legs, a broken jaw, a fractured eye socket and head trauma, Quattro was euthanized on May 15 to end his suffering.
These are not isolated acts of cruelty. Just look at each of the previous three months.
In April, Roxie, a young Rottweiler, was brought to the ASPCA after being slashed, stabbed and dumped in a trash can. Roxie is receiving medical treatment at the ASPCA.
In March, Otis, a young pit bull mix, was brought to our animal hospital by the NYPD after he was abandoned in upper Manhattan. A veterinary examination determined that the dog had multiple blunt force trauma injuries and multiple fractures. Otis is continuing to undergo daily rehabilitation exercises.
And in February, a 13-week-old goldendoodle puppy named Miley was seized by the NYPD and brought to the ASPCA Animal Hospital. Although the dog’s caretaker claimed she fell down stairs, a veterinarian who examined the puppy observed a number of injuries more consistent with being kicked or thrown. Miley was fortunately able to make a full recovery in our care. She was adopted shortly thereafter.
Sometimes, acts of cruelty stir such attention and outrage that positive change results. I think of Justin, a cat who was lit on fire just over a year ago in Philadelphia. Though he lost his ears, Justin recovered and is now a symbol for the horrors of animal cruelty, but also for the perseverance of animals and humans to overcome it. Justin has over 135,000 fans on his Facebook page and frequently makes public appearances to bring attention to pet welfare issues.
I also think of Patrick, a pit bull who was found near death at the bottom of a Newark apartment building’s trash chute in 2011. Weighing less than 20 pounds when he was found, Patrick recovered and is the inspiration for New Jersey’s “Patrick’s Law,” signed last year by Gov. Chris Christie. The law increases penalties for animal cruelty offenses in the state.
Both Patrick and Justin were inducted into the 2014 New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association’s “Animal Hall of Fame,” and I was honored to meet them and their caretakers at the Animal Welfare Federation of New Jersey’s annual conference back in March.
But to truly end animal cruelty, we need to look beyond institutional remedies in our government and courts. The truth is, longer prison terms and stiffer penalties – while absolutely necessary as law enforcement tools – are less effective when it comes to stopping suffering as it happens or even earlier.
To make necessary and meaningful change, we can look to the histories of other social causes.
Drunk driving laws have been on the books since the early 1900s, but without a reliable way to measure sobriety and – more importantly – a public outcry for such laws to be strongly enforced, there was no momentum to abide by or to enforce them. Just consider the phrase “one for the road.” But in the early 1980s, Candy Lightner and her organization, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, put intense public pressure on state and local governments to effect change, which shifted attitudes. As a result, arrests went up more than 220% from 1970-1986, and the number of drunk driving deaths in America has been cut in half since Mothers Against Drunk Driving was founded in 1980.
Now consider domestic violence, which, for decades, was seen as a family matter, and at worst, a man’s prerogative. Things only started changing toward the end of the 20th century, when the women’s movement and domestic violence victim advocates exposed the pressing need for life-saving laws and dedicated law enforcement. By 2005 non-fatal domestic violence incidents were reduced by nearly 50%. There was also a 51% increase in the reporting of domestic violence. It all started with people – regular people, like me and you – putting these issues on the forefront of our national consciousness.
I believe these two examples and others illustrate a roadmap for those of us who care about animal welfare. At the end of that road, animal cruelty will not be the problem just for people who care about animals, but a problem for everyone who believes a civilized society has inherent and necessary standards of humanity. Basically, if we can evolve societal attitudes about drunk driving and domestic violence, why can’t we spark a continual evolution of thoughts and values on animal cruelty?
So how do we get there?
One step we must take is to strongly encourage the public to report animal cruelty, just like we encourage them to report suspicious packages or people. Having accessible, visible avenues to report animal abuse – strongly supported and promoted by the media, community, law enforcement, and within the family – not only saves lives but reinforces the message that animals deserve our concern and protection.
If the older neighborhood kids who intervened in the torture of Quattro knew enough to step in, then anyone can do the same, regardless of age or background. You don’t need a degree in veterinary science or animal welfare experience to spot and stop animal cruelty – for most of us, that sensitivity is built into our internal values.
Here in New York City, thanks to our in-depth partnership with the NYPD, anyone can dial 311 to report suspected animal abuse (or 911 to report crimes in progress). The NYPD is trained to respond and investigate. Here are more ways to report animal abuse where you live.
The next step is to share these stories. We know pets have a unique ability to move all kinds of people. I believe King, Quattro, Roxie, Otis, Miley, Patrick, Justin, and the thousands of other victimized animals they represent across the country can still make a deep impact on a closed mind or a callous attitude. And one open mind leads to another, and another.
We may never live in a world where every animal is treated humanely, compassionately and respectfully, but that doesn’t mean we should ease up on our vigilance. If anything, we need to double down on our efforts – in legislation, in our courts, and in law enforcement– but even more so in our social circles, which are becoming wider and wider by the minute.
Our animals deserve it, and our humanity demands it.